Monday, December 31, 2012

The beginning of the end

I think my period is dying.

Unfortunately, it's making a final exit like this:

It could be worse; it could have ended up mimicking the death of Carl Showalter, Lennie Taylor or any number of people in a Tarantino flick. Instead, it's a constipated crawl to its last breath. Like Janet Overton whose husband slowly poisoned her with cyanide and selenium, my period is sputtering and gradually losing its life, oozing tiny drops of blood instead of going out in a glorious gush of gore, Kill Bill style. I was going to avoid the M word, even though it's obvious what's happening. Now that it's out in the open, I will add that I'm probably the only one to ever go through puberty at 35 and hit menopause 10 years later. Some articles suggest that this perimenopause state can last a long time, so this bumpy ride might not be over any time soon. Who knows?

Being cold all the time, I was anxiously waiting for a fucking hot flash, but that's the one symptom lacking. Meanwhile, it's 10 degrees outside and I'm afraid to even crack open the door. On the other hand, this might be better than..uh...riding the cotton pony (wow, euphemisms for getting a period suck) every two weeks, even though I'm lingering in a constant state of something like PMS and getting what looks like the essence of a period every 12 days. OK, maybe better isn't quite the right word. At least it's different? Once the blood flow ceases entirely, I assume the anemia I used to encounter so often will be easier to manage. That's one plus.

I've sort of hit a low with my running, but I managed to struggle through a few good bike sessions last week. I might blow today off, even though I didn't do anything yesterday. Oddly, my legs are wicked tired. I'm also a bit feverish. Hopefully things will be improving in the new year. I'm looking forward to my appointment with my podiatrist at the end of January. There's got to be something he can do to keep me out of this uncomfortable situation. Lately, I get stabbing and burning pains in my foot, and the inflamed muscle is at its worst, pulling my big toe to the left in its angry spasm. Yeah, yeah, I'm glad I can run at all, but I was happier when it didn't hurt as much and wasn't so limiting. The limping isn't good for the rest of my body.

Speaking of the new year, I hope everyone has a happy one. Stay safe and good luck with the running goals in 2013!

I'm off to do some writing or napping, probably some of each, but first some chocolate ice cream. I need a little comfort food today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My love-hate relationship with running

Blog posts from happy runners encouraging everyone to "just do it" annoy me. I get where the authors are coming from to some extent, and it's nice that they think they are offering some cheerful inspiration. On the other hand, these people don't understand anything about going over the edge. Most elites don't need to be told to just do it; they need to be told to relax a little. Of course it's fun to run when there's no extra burden; the body is sound and the main goal is to get out the door. That's sort of where I am now, only I'm haunted. Running is a great sport when you have never gotten close to touching the dark side or hit that line that, when crossed, makes a runner feel there's no other option but to jump off a bridge, swallow some pills or slit some wrists. Most happy joggers also haven't experienced being in a crippled body that hurts just walking, so of course running is still fun. In Andre Agassi's book, Open, he discusses his tortured relationship with his sport, tennis, at times feeling like he had no choice but to do it, and at other times feeling great contentment in his achievements. What do you do when your calling breaks you?

Jack Bacheler, founding (and probably the tallest) member of the Florida Track Club and a two-time Olympic qualifier, states, "A real top-notch distance runner needs to be obsessive-compulsive."   This isn't exactly true, but most runners know it takes a certain amount of dedication to the sport in order to succeed. The problem with being an obsessive-compulsive athlete is that being too stuck in a routine doesn't allow for real growth. It's impossible to make it to the top if the main goal is accomplishing compulsive acts instead of doing sensible training. If an illness is the driving force, chances are feeding the sickness will become more important than success. Just ask any addict who chooses to drink over anything else in life or anyone who is focused on not missing a day of running over quality training.

There was a time in my life when running excited me. I loved to race. I didn't always enjoy every moment of training, but once I got into the middle of a race, I felt at home. Eventually, getting to the race became a challenge with increasing anxiety as pressure, both internal and external, mounted. About the time I started wishing I would get hit by a truck, I read an article about Kathy Ormsby running off the track in the middle of the 10,000 at nationals and jumping off a bridge. Man, how I could relate. For me, it all came down to choices; I felt like I had none. I was stuck in routine of doing more and going harder but never straying from the basic day to day monotony. People wonder how anyone could throw away a successful career and have the desire to end it all, but those of us who have been there know exactly why Kathy jumped or at least have some idea of what it's like to want out. Back then, I would wake up in the mornings, drag myself out of bed and step into my own personal hell, completely unable to do things differently. And nobody knew what anguish I faced each day.

My first year in high school. Already the pressure was too much. 
For some of us, the drive to do well is so immense it becomes unbearable. It can take years and years to unlearn compulsive habits and be OK living any kind of normal life. Extreme pressure to succeed distorts rational thought, and some of us are left with a war in our heads, one part wanting to let it all go and the other determined to continue at all costs. Most of us stay in the nightmare until we are faced with some catastrophic event: an injury, illness or mental breakdown.

One of my coaches used to tell me, and I'm sure he's not the only one who noticed this, that more often than not those who are caught up in the stress will blame themselves when they don't do as well as they wanted in a race. Others who are not as burdened by internal obligation will often blame outside factors for not doing well: the weather, getting boxed in or improper coaching. The ones who blame themselves tend to have a difficult time letting it go. They are experts at beating themselves up over past events.

I want to make it very clear that going over the edge in the first place or breaking after falling over the cliff has absolutely nothing to do with women not being able to handle the sport. This isn't at all a women's issue. I've known plenty of men who have gone down similar dark roads, and I've known even more females who have been at the top without struggling with any of these internal demons. I recently read an article about marathoners with drinking problems, and not a single woman was mentioned. Yes, they exist, but the focus was on men in this particular article. When I think about it though, women in distance running is a relatively new concept. The Olympic marathon wasn't introduced until 1984. That's not that long ago. It's not surprising that some of us put more pressure on ourselves to run well. There's no doubt that I was running at a time when women were just starting to prove themselves. Some will say it's the sport itself that draws in people who tend to live on the edge or those who are attracted to extremes. There is something about running that is addicting, and it's not just the change in brain chemistry that keeps a person hooked. Male or female, people who run are different than the average person.

Most of my issues were only partly related to the running, though I was clearly dong too much given my propensity to restrict my food intake and my inability to go easy. Somehow I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders once I entered high school. It didn't help to have a coach who talked about girls getting fat and quitting once they became seniors. For whatever reason, I was determined to prove the guy wrong, and I would risk my life doing so. I suddenly feel the need to insert this quote by Rebecca West (first part by Clare boothe Luce): "Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." ~Clare Boothe Luce. I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute." All this said, my real issue was my illness. That's what made both my existence and my running unbearable. Between the OCD and the eating disorder, my life was a wreck. 

Though I'm in a much different place now, I still have memories of those terrible days. There are sometimes have nights on which my past worries manifest in some odd and intense dream about missing the start of a race or missing a run after eating something extravagant like chocolate cake. One of those struck out of the blue the other day. These are likely just unconscious memories of past traumas, but I will wake up feeling uncomfortable and shaken when they occur. I also sometimes experience sadness and a sense of being overwhelmed before or while running. It is not easy for me to get out the door most days, and anyone who tells me to just do it has no idea what I put myself through with the sport. I don't want to hear it. If I get out there and bail after 10 minutes, that's now my right. If I don't even get out the door, that's fine too. With my heart valve leak, the cold weather is scary and uncomfortable for me. I have backed WAY off my running with the deep freeze that dropped into the area, and I'm not fighting it. Oddly, I'm sort of fine with it.

I guess there's a part of me that wishes I had a different relationship with running. The anorexia aside, there were moments running that brought me great joy. If I could learn to get my head out of the way, I think I would be less resentful, fatigued and angry about my past. I assume I would also be less afraid. It's not easy to live in the moment, but it's a goal for the upcoming new year.

Well, that was an unexpected little rant there.

Happy running everyone! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gift idea

Need a last minute gift? Use this coupon code and get 25% off my e-book, Training on Empty at Coupon code: VE35D Expires on Dec 26th.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holidaze again

This is my holiday wish list, minus all the obvious ones like world peace or a date with Thom Yorke:

1. An all-expenses-paid trip to the dentist to repair the chipped tooth I have. Kids, when your mom says, "Don't do that with you teeth!" listen to her.

2. A new pair of running shoes.

3. New clothes and underwear. Weird how this kind of gift wasn't as valued when I was little, but now it makes my top 10 list.

4. One of those ultra-fancy ice cream makers.

5. A car that doesn't crap out on me every three months.

6. One of those functioning feet that everyone seems to have that can be used while running or walking, preferably a left one, though I wouldn't mind one of each.

7. Four more months of sunshine and warm temperatures this winter, though it's OK if it snows in the high mountains.

8. A visit from the bill-paying fairy.

9. Magically delivered spare time that I can use for writing.

10. Happiness, love and unicorns for everyone.

If any of the above can't be handed over, I'm OK with chocolate.

This year's favorite holiday songs are the following:

Nice and quiet

Best cover of this song ever!!
Awesome, the EELS!

I still love this one, so I will add it again this year, even though I add it every year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank FSM for editors

I almost feel like I should repeat part of the first paragraph of my previous post here, but I think I'm just going to ignore the mole hill people have made into Everest. It's not like many are actually reading my posts, despite the record number of hits on my blog yesterday, thanks to my article on Suzy Favor Hamilton that came out months ago at I'm in shock, more over the childish behaviors people have displayed than anything that was dragged into the spotlight. The only things I will say are the following: I have known Suzy since high school. She is a friend and has been nothing but kind and supportive ever since we met. I know some of her struggles, and she knows mine. It's not my place to pass judgement, and I wouldn't over something like this anyway. Her recent actions do not diminish her outstanding achievements as a runner, nor do they erase all her kind and charitable actions throughout her life. She's human, and I wish people wouldn't forget that as the snarky and degrading comments fly. I wish her nothing but the best. Considering all that goes on in the world, it's absurd the amount of energy and attention the nameless have put into creating nasty comments about something that should be private. I really hope things die down soon.

Moving on ...

I discovered that writing is rewriting, rewriting with a critical eye, rewriting a third time with a creative eye and then hiring a good editor to fix it.

Someone once told me that anyone who continues to write will naturally get better. That's not entirely true. Work has to be thrown in the mix. Simply writing without critique doesn't automatically lead to improvement. I will admit that I'm not a great writer. Sometimes I'm not even all that competent. Still, I keep aiming for good. By reading the work of others, listening to critiques of my writing and working at it, I believe I have made improvements. What's frustrating is knowing I will never be at that genius level, and may not even break into the great category. It's a little bit like running though. I know I don't have to be great in order to enjoy it and touch others in some way. Just like I used to dream of being something outstanding in running (with far more talent than I will ever have in writing) I dream of being able to toss words together in the crazy and unique ways that some of my literary heroes do.

What I lack:

1. Confidence. I constantly get in my own way.
2. A large vocabulary. I'm working on it.
3. A powerful command of the English language. I'm working on that too.

Other stumbling blocks:

1. Lack of time and/or motivation. Sometimes having to work, do laundry, focus on health or survive takes precedence over writing. Often just getting to the end of the day leaves me too drained to write.
2. Dyslexia. Yes, it's a bitch to write having dyslexia. It also explains why I need a good editor, though my blog posts are unedited. Hopefully it doesn't show too mcuh.  ;)

Things that help me along in my writing:

1. Even though I'm not as creative as some, there's creativity brewing somewhere in me.
2. I have a reasonable understanding of grammar and sentence structure, though I often feel the need to double and even triple check myself, and even then I sometimes get it wrong.
3. Having the desire to express myself through writing is a definite asset.

Blogging can be a little bit like doing the scales in music or putting in those slow miles as part of training. Right now I'm working on a few writing projects including some fiction pieces, and my blog posts keep me in the writing mode. I found out that I'm not very good at writing horror, but I'm struggling through it, freaking myself out in the process and realizing that even when it doesn't come naturally or easily, good material can be produced.

My brain is in a bit of a fog at the moment, so I'm going to cut this short. I'm struggling with foot issues and winter depression. Because of this, I'm giving myself credit for making it through each day without imploding too terribly lately. Despite longing to spend a month or three doing nothing but eat chocolate ice cream with peanut butter on top and nap, I'm forcing myself to be in the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Biggest Loser

I can't bring myself to write about the shooting tragedy. Sometimes I wish people would just stop and take a moment to acknowledge a heartbreaking event instead of using it as an opportunity to push an agenda, judge people or get into fights on social networking sites, as if that helps anything. Facebook is weird, because people act like their posts are as effective as writing a letter to a representative in congress or joining an interest group. The worst are those who sit in an armchair with a belly full of beer and insist that this or that person in the disaster should have been more heroic, pretending that they have any fucking clue about how they would act in a chaotic and terrifying situation. It's just sad the way people behave after something like this. It reminded me of the critics who got on Jon Krakauer's case after the 1996 Everest nightmare. People suggested he should have gone back out into a blinding blizzard in order to attempt to save people after he had collapsed in his tent, barely making it to safety himself. I guess I understand the need to vent, so I will shut up about it and go into my own rant.

Recently, I read a few blurbs about how an episode of Glee botched the job in their attempt to cover the topic of eating disorders, trivializing it on the one hand but going into specific health harming techniques a little too explicitly on the other. When have eating disorders ever been handled well on television though? It's unfortunate, but it's to be expected. All shows attempting to cover eating disorders as a topic follow the same pattern and are resolved in one to three episodes: A girl wants to lose weight and doesn't eat, takes laxatives or pills and/or throws up; she passes out; someone has a talk with her, and Boom! the problem is solved. The writers of Glee have dealt with the issue in a careless way. It's important to note that the program is not a reality show, but even productions not based in reality can affect viewers. In this case, I have heard some people explain that show is triggering for anyone with a tendency toward disordered eating.

I just read that The Biggest Loser is going to be casting children on their show. First let me say that I stopped watching the show in 2004 after I saw two episodes way back before it was popular. Second, I refuse to watch it after dealing with the sour taste it left in my mouth while watching those first episodes. As far along in my recovery as I was at the time, I found the show to be hugely discomforting in all kinds of ways. Now the producers want to bring children into the fiasco.

Not an effective training method.

Here's a petition to sign if you agree that children should be spared the trauma of being immersed in an atmosphere of extreme dieting and ridicule: Keep Kids off the Biggest Loser.

Kai suffered from an eating disorder brought on after being on the Biggest Loser. 

Former Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard, who suffered from an eating disorder after filming the show, claims that the show stretches the truth and promotes unhealthy diet methods. That much was obvious at a glance, but what's even more troubling is that so many people defend the series, claiming it inspires others to lose weight. Does it? I never responded well to yelling, so watching others get yelled at has never been inspiring to me. I think I have mentioned before my experience with one riding instructor who yelled at me the entire 45 minutes I was on the horse. I refused to go back, because I got so stressed out anticipating the woman's shouts. I respond better to positive reinforcement. It's less dehumanizing and less demoralizing.

Please keep this away from children.
Scanning the statistics for the show, it looks like many of the contestants gain back a significant amount of the weight lost. Some gain back all the weight plus more, which is typical after dieting in a way that doesn't address permanent lifestyle changes. Gradual diet and exercise tweaking tends to lead to better results, but sensible doesn't usually generate ratings on T.V.

The biggest Loser is a contest designed to get viewers. It's not a weight-loss camp where health is encouraged. Supposedly the children won't be weighed or part of the actual competition, so I'm not sure what their role will be. I wonder why anyone would put kids in that questionable setting anyway, but I'm sure it has to do with an attempt to increase viewership.

It's a myth that yelling gets results in training.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Triggering content

I joined a few facebook groups that promote awareness around eating disorders thinking it might be a good way to promote my book. Now that I am involved, I realize that, book or no book, my goal is more about reaching out to and helping others than selling anything, though I do hope people read what I worked so hard to put together. When I first started writing years ago, this idea that numbers and other bits of information could be "triggering" wasn't prominent or well accepted. It seems these days authors often avoid talking numbers for fear of influencing or indirectly encouraging someone else's illness. I can definitely see that mentioning specifics could be risky, but, at the same time, it's almost impossible to convey how sick I was by only mentioning my symptoms. As extreme as these problems were, stating my weight really drives the point home.

I once watched a movie about Ellen Hart Pena called Dying to be Perfect. It stars Crystal Bernard who doesn't exactly look like an emaciated runner. Crystal is thin, just not sickly so. As a result, the viewer is supposed to imagine her being more unhealthy than she looks. I felt that leaving numbers out of my book would cause people to imagine me either healthier or sicker than I was, and wondering what my weight really was might be distracting for the reader. I guess I was aiming for accuracy and honesty. It was important to let people know where I had been, so that they could better understand what I overcame.

In the end, I chose to mention my weight in my book knowing that what the scale says is not the only measure of the illness. Numbers do create an image, however, how sick a person is isn't entirely determined by how little or how much he or she weighs. In 2003, a young woman died in single binge purge episode when her electrolytes were badly thrown off kilter. At the time, she was not at a weight that would normally cause alarm. Sometimes people who appear normal in terms of weight are still in the throes of the disorder emotionally and mentally, and for those who are bulimic, weight doesn't usually determine how sick a person is. I should explain further that there have been women who have died before their weight got as low as mine did, and, surprisingly,  there are women who weighed less that I did who lived. When I was in an eating disorder treatment facility, I met a lady who weighed probably 20 pounds less that I did at my worst. It's hard to comprehend and unbelievable that she endured; it's pretty much a miracle. She was in very bad shape even two months into her recovery and one month out of the regular hospital, still having to wear stockings for the terrible edema and circulation issues she was experiencing and still struggling to handle the food she was eating. I'm not suggesting that death is arbitrary when it comes to eating disorders, more that the illness affects people in different ways and each body responds differently to extreme conditions.

The thing to keep in mind is that eating disorders kill more people than all other mental illnesses combined, and there's no magic number that determines whether or not a person will survive. Obviously the more malnourished the body is, the less likely it is that a person will live. I was lucky, extremely lucky.

My point in bringing this up is to make sure that people understand that eating disorders are not entirely about food, meal plans and weight, just like alcoholism isn't completely about drinking. Because my dad was a brilliant thinker and he drank, I made the incorrect assumption that most addicts are troubled and tortured geniuses. But, as Stephen King noted, look at how many janitors, parents, musicians, food servers, street people and toll booth collectors are alcoholics or addicts of some sort. There are approximately 15 million people struggling with alcohol dependency and eight million people diagnosed with eating disorders in the United States alone. Why is addiction so prevalent?

It seems the more chaotic the world becomes, the more people are trying to feel a sense of control. We are not often taught coping mechanisms as children, so when we are faced with uncomfortable emotions, we become overwhelmed. The media tell us that life is supposed to be grand and pain free. Any discomfort is supposed to be stopped immediately with a pill or liquid elixir. Instead of learning to weather our emotions, we are taught to stuff them. With no coping skills, addiction becomes a common solution.

I'm reading a book called Eating in the Light of the Moon. It's a beautiful little piece of non-fiction that discusses the relationship women have with food. In it, the author offers a wonderful analogy about addiction. I will give the gist of it here: She describes a scene in which a person is struggling in river, being swept downstream. She is overwhelmed and can't swim to shore. In a frantic effort to survive, she grabs on to a log. This log keeps her afloat, but it is also pulling her further down the river. Meanwhile, people on the banks of the river see the simple solution: Swim to land. The people shout to her to let go and swim, but she's too afraid to let go. She has convinced herself that she needs the log. It did save her, after all. The problem is that it is now carrying her away and may eventually take her into waters that will drown her. 

Obviously the log in the story represents the addiction or disorder we choose in order to cope. It can be addiction, eating issues, bad relationships or any coping method that ultimately isn't healthy. It serves us in the sense that it offers us a way to survive in a chaotic situation, but it's not a comfortable way to live. In fact, it may kill us in the end. For anyone struggling with these issues, it's important to ask how the illness or addiction has served us. What does having the disorder keep us from experiencing? Why are we drawn to the disorder? It's impossible to swim to shore without strength. Coping takes courage. Often in recovery, relapses occur, because the core issues are being ignored. Every time we feel overwhelmed, it becomes too tempting to grab the log again. In order to get past the urge to revert, we must discover who we are. In doing so, we begin to recognize our own strength.

One of several flaws that I saw when I was in various treatment facilities for my eating issues was an abnormal fixation on meal plans and food in general. These plans we are supposed to stick to when our body might need more nutrients one day and less another don't allow our inner wisdom to be expressed. I'm not saying that plans can't be used as guidelines, but I found that they are relied on too much. It's odd to suggest that eating disorders aren't really about food, but they are just like any other addiction and about more than that. If the focus remains on the food, deeper issues won't be addressed.

An example is a woman who is facing a date with relatives that she knows will be emotionally hard for her. She has put her attention on trying to avoid binging during this time instead of addressing the deeper feelings. If she could prepare for and deal with the sadness that she is attempting to avoid, she might realize that the urge to binge would be less. Instead, she is asking for ways to avoid binging. Suggestions have included drinking water, chewing gum and eating a small portion of what is served. Nobody has suggested that she talk to someone at the event about her feelings, write about why she feels the urge to binge or focus on her physical body in order to feel more comfortable. The more she focuses on the food or the act of binging, the less she will address why she feels like she wants to binge in the first place. Those emotions will continue to get stuffed until she can use different ways to cope. As scary as it can be to allow emotions to come to the surface, it's the only way to get through them, and even though it can feel like we will get lost in them, like the weather, they will eventually pass.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The mountain runner in me

First some exciting news: Lauren Fleshman announced on her blog that she is expecting. I'm of the opinion that those of us who can transition in life are happier and more successful. When I say those of us, I don't actually put myself in that category. I don't tend to deal with change all that well. In fact, my resistance to bending has held me back in many areas of my life. I have definitely gotten better, but I often dig my heels in deep when I should be letting the winds lead me in new directions. A big congratulations to Lauren for stepping into a new role.

The Footlocker Cross Country Championships race was Saturday morning. I watched the coverage of the girl's 5k. It was great to see Jordyn Colter run well. I hope that whatever plagued her earlier in the season is behind her. Of course I worry, but it would be nice to see her have a long, successful and HEALTHY career.

Wow, things have changed since I ran it and not just the name! It's like watching a mini Olympics. There are interviews, events and the whole thing is filmed and broadcast live online. It makes me realize that runners are definitely under the microscope more these days. I'm glad things like LetsRun wasn't around in the '80s. I don't think I would have handled the commentary well given how sensitive I was back then. The Footlocker race seems so BIG now. When I ran and it was still the Kinney Cross Country Championships, I didn't realize what I was getting into, partly because I was the first girl from Colorado to ever qualify for the event. I knew it was a national race, but I didn't get just how good some of the other runners were. Quite a few of the girls I ran with both my junior and senior year went on to have very successful careers; some even made it to the Olympics. Suzy Favor Hamilton was one of those girls.

In my book, I mention how Suzy and I met at the Kinney regional meet and kept in touch throughout high school and after. We are still in touch today.

Lize after winning the regional cross-country race. Suzy Favor (Hamilton) was injured that year. .
Going into my first of two Kinney races, I was coming off the Pikes Peak Ascent win and an undefeated cross-country season. Fatigue was setting in, but I was too compulsive to rest much at that time. I remember starting the race in last place. Speed was not one of my assets. Over the 5k course, I inched my way up to 15th place, which wasn't bad considering I thought of myself as a mountain runner, not a cross-country racer. The course I ran in San Diego is the same as the one the boys and girls ran Saturday. It has a big hill that the racers go up twice. Unfortunately, the hill is too steep and short for someone like me to use as an advantage. It's more for runners with explosive speed, not for those of us who like long, gruelling uphill segments. My finish left me hoping I could do better the following year. Little did I know I would first have to face what could have been a career-ending injury and a flock of internal demons before I could get to the start line of Nationals the following year.
Jogging to the start line of Nationals

My next attempt to run fast on the course at Balboa Park landed me in 7th place. It was an improvement, but I was slightly disappointed since I had set a course record on nearly every cross-country course, road and mountain race I had run leading into nationals and was coming off an impressive 35:15 10K a few weeks earlier. What people didn't know was that my real accomplishment that day was not running related; it was my success in avoiding any purging before the race, something I had done before winning the regional race. Though I was diagnosed with anorexia, I did have bouts of bulimia my senior year of high school and in college when I was struggling with the eating disorder. Crossing the line further back than I wanted left me with mixed emotions. Despite knowing my sport was really mountain running, I had dreams of being in the top three at the Kinney race. It just didn't happen. I didn't have the turnover and leg speed that the other girls did.

As much as I liked cross country, road racing and even the track, mountain running was more my thing. I'm not sure why mountain runners are always called crazy. Really, is running up a mountain any less sane than sprinting 400s on the track or pounding out repeat intervals on the roads? Is running on the dirt any more bizarre than spending three hours painting or practicing the piano? Crazy or not, I have always felt more at home trotting on the trails. Mostly I love hill climbs, anything with a super long grind to the top. Even though I've got that tight butt thing going on these days that limits my stride, I'm still all about the hills. In fact, now that my gait is wobbly and uneven, going up in the hills is better for me. There's less pounding on my aching body. I suppose I'm a mountain runner at heart, even when I can no longer go the distance and have slowed down tremendously.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

No shoes

I haven't bought a new pair of shoes in ages. I don't count running shoes as getting new shoes, because those are a necessity, part of my running equipment. My running keeps me sane, so running shoes are an investment in my mental health, not a luxury buy. The last pair of regular shoes I bought was purchased a few months before my first foot surgery. I didn't know that I would never wear them again. They are too narrow for my foot after all the work and the heel is probably a bit too high. Even though they are far from flat, I'm saving my adorable little Bandolinos that I acquired about a year before the surgery, just in case I can ever stuff my wrecked foot into a nice-looking pair again.

Shortly after the surgery, mostly just for fun, I signed up for a free JustFab account. The idea with their website is that you fill out a questionnaire about the kinds of shoes you find appealing, and they create a very special grouping of shoes just for you. My responses clearly indicated that I can't stand those little oddly colored ballerina slippers, and I'm physically incapable of wearing high heels at this time. I selected the category for comfortable, low-heeled shoes and deselected the other categories thinking that I would be shown some elegant but sensible shoes, maybe some Clarks or Danskos. Instead, this is what was suggested, specifically for me:

I don't think I could walk in these, even without the foot issues. 

I wouldn't be caught dead in these. In fact, if I'm dead and anyone sees these shoes on my feet, please promise me you will take them off and offer them to the nearest dog as a chew toy. 

Sexy, yes. Me limping around in them? Not so sexy. 

Ouch again. 

Does this heel look low to you? They at least hit the nail on the head when it comes to cute, but missed the mark on the comfortable part. 

Obviously I will not be buying anything from this justFab selection. Eventually, I will have to buy some new shoes; I just don't know where to go for affordable ones that won't damage my foot. After the bills I got in the mail today, I won't be making purchases at all any time soon.

The cyst on the top of my foot is back. I can't see my doctor until January. This means I would probably have to wait on any shopping sprees in the footwear department anyway.

Somebody please reassure me that I can find a sensible and comfortable shoe like this in the future:

or even this:

so I don't have to wear something like this:

All this talk about shoes makes me wish my finances were better. :/

Monday, December 3, 2012

More about objectification

I'd like to think things are shifting when it comes to the portrayal of women in the media. While this blurb (below) about a study regarding articles about athletes in Sports Illustrated looks somewhat promising, it's clear that advertising and other aspects of the media are still missing the boat. I can't find the actual study anywhere, so it's hard to take the following completely seriously. Besides, a quick glance at recent Sports Illustrated covers tells me that women are definitely still portrayed as sexual objects in that magazine, and it's not just Sports Illustrated who's guilty. Still, I hope that the findings in the study are true. It would be nice if anything written on athletes focused on their abilities instead of their looks. 

Improvements in 2010? 

Analysis of Sports Illustrated yields interesting data on portrayals of women athletes

A new study indicates that representation of women athletes is improving, but there’s a caveat to that point.

The University of Buffalo’s Kiera Duckworth analyzed Sports Illustrated issues during Olympic years and found that the majority of articles portrayed women athletes as “strong, competent athletes.” Her research was presented Thursday at the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in New Orleans.

This is a positive signal for women’s sports because it is imperative that women athletes are recognized for their athletic prowess and not being sexualized.

However in her analysis of advertisements in the same issues, Duckworth found that there were differences in representation based on race. White women were portrayed as “the girl next door”, black females were shown predominately in a sporting context and Asian women were sexualized.

Taken together, Duckworth’s research indicates that the focus needs to be placed not just on journalists, but on advertising companies who also create societal representations of women athletes.

Still a LONG way to go. 

In addition to the short write-up above, I read an article in Psychology Today about the possible benefits of women being objectified. The topic was whether or not women want to be objectified. A foolish quote by Cameron Diaz was offered as some kind of evidence that there are women who think it's OK to objectify women. Cameron takes it one step further and seems to believe that EVERY women secretly wants it. I can guarantee there's at least one women who does not. I'm sure I'm not alone. She states, "I think every woman does want to be objectified," as if she has any kind of qualifications to determine this. 

Here's the thing...

Who the fuck cares what Camreon Diaz says? She's is a mediocre actress with nothing of substance to say who, despite her claims of being a mother but not actually having any children, knows zero minus about creating a healthy environment for youngsters. She's fine with objectifying women, because that's how she got famous and probably how she became quite full of herself, though her insecurity screams through her fits of bravado. Cameron's first movie (not Mask) was probably only available behind the secret curtains in the back of your local video store, so it's not surprising that she associates being objectified with something good following -- in her case, lots of money. Considering the damage she has done to herself with plastic surgery, I have to wonder how this objectification she claims to like is going to work out for her in the end. Hollywood isn't kind to the ageing. 

She continues, "If a woman who's a successful actress weighs 300 pounds and has warts, nobody ever asks her, 'Do you think you made it because you're ugly?' So why should there be prejudice against someone who's had some success in films and looks a little better than average. It's all in my genes, so don't hold it against me." 
Cameron Diaz

Yes, there are just so many actresses who weigh 300 pounds and have warts hanging around to answer these questions. 

I don't think Cameron Diaz understands the difference between the desire to feel sexy and comfortable in one's skin and being sexually objectified. In the case of the former, I might agree that most people don't mind having a good body image and being admired, but, unfortunately, stating it the way she did makes it seem like objectification is a positive thing. The Psychology Today article pointed out that getting attention based on outer appearance for those who already self-objectify and are already feeling good about themselves can cause a temporary boost in mood, but it also cautioned:

"..for people who base their self-worth on appearance (aka most of us, to some extent), self-objectification may be a double-edged sword. It feels great when you're getting positive attention, but it can easily turn sour when attention is negative or lacking, and these ups and downs can wreak havoc on mental and physical health.
Even when objectification feels good, it can have negative effects, taking precious time and attention away from potentially more important tasks or goals. For example, let's say you are a female attending an academic conference. Your central goals are presumably along the lines of learning something, networking, engaging in meaningful conversations, and presenting your best work."

Let me make one thing really clear: Women are not on this planet to look good for anyone. This article describes the warped thinking even highly educated individuals can have when it comes to women. The constant pressure women face to look good takes them away from achieving other goals in life. Objectification de-emphasizes individuality and often reduces whole beings into parts, dehumanizing and devaluing them in the process. When women are not seen as whole, they are no longer taken seriously. Notice that despite the obvious intellectual capabilities of the women at the conference, Dario Maestripieri is more concerned with a woman's outer beauty than her worth overall. He wrote, "My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The supermodel types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone.''  I'm not sure where he was going with that first fragment, but, incomplete sentences aside, this guy is part of a big problem for women. In stating this, he reduces women to nothing more than items to be viewed, and if viewing them doesn't bring him pleasure, he insists they are ugly. Guess what? Not everyone is going to find you attractive, no matter how high up on the scale of hotness you think are. But, as idiotic as Maestripieri's comments are, they are still damaging and shouldn't be brushed aside. I have already gone into how objectification of women leads to self-objectification, which leads to lower-self esteem and can spiral into decreased cognitive ability, eating disorders and increased incidents of abuse against women. 

I wonder what the women at the conference had to say about the appearance of the men there. 

This shit makes me so angry. I feel like screaming out, "Fuuuuuuuccckkkk Youuuuuu!!!" to this messed up society sometimes. We need to call people like this out more often. Things like this that reinforce an unhealthy climate for women should not be happening. 

At some point, I will get back to writing about other things. For now I'm on a roll and feel the need to make an effort to raise awareness about how harmful objectification can be. Things need to change.